After The Corona Crisis Germany’s Fast Food Industry Wants to Expand its Car Pick-Up Counters

Ratingen After severe setbacks in the corona crisis, Germany’s fast food industry wants to expand its  While the classic restaurant business collapsed with waiting times at the counter, sales via “drive-ins” or “drive-thru” increased.

At Burger King, the car share of total sales before Corona was a third, in summer it rose to more than 45 percent. At the market leader McDonald’s, the proportion of automobiles climbed from 30 to 50 percent of the sales of the drive-in branches in the spring.

For years, the car counters were more of a compulsory task for the US chains in Germany. Jochen Pinsker from the market research company npdgroup says: “These days, the young generation often doesn’t have a car at all, so the demand was sometimes rather moderate.”

The corona crisis has changed that. Drive-thrus are currently not only an efficient means of testing people for the Covid-19 pathogen quickly and without contact with other people. Consumers looking for quicker saturation are also increasingly using the car switches.

Pinsker says that many no longer wanted to go to the restaurant and are therefore grateful for being able to pick them up at the car window: People felt “better when they are traveling by car – the drive-through is experiencing a renaissance that will continue after Corona” says Pinsker. Cornelius Everke, Germany boss at Burger King, agrees: More and more customers wanted a meal to be handed over without going into the restaurant.

“The drive-in branches helped us a lot to find a way through the crisis,” says Everke. In November, Burger King customers even took a good two-thirds of the food at the car counter, the rest was collected from the restaurant and from delivery services. The high November share is also due to the fact that consumption in the restaurant is currently no longer due to corona measures.

Competitor Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) also reported an increase in the share of drive-in sales from 27 percent before the pandemic to around 65 percent in the summer; in November it was 85 percent. “The crisis caught us, and sales initially fell in the Corona times, but drive-in pushed us,” says KFC Germany boss Marco Schepers.

110 of 174 restaurants have a car counter. “We were able to quickly switch to other sales channels apart from the classic counter business, that helped us.” KFC expanded its delivery service: At the beginning of the year, in-house couriers were on the road for 20 KFC restaurants, now there are more than 60. In 40 other restaurants, they are taking over Lieferando the delivery service.

Kentucky Fried Chicken presented an expansion strategy on Thursday, according to which in smaller cities, where there is currently no KFC, 25 new restaurants are to be opened per year by 2025. For example, it is about Villingen-Schwenningen (Baden-Württemberg), Dülmen (NRW), Coburg (Bavaria) and Meppen (Lower Saxony). There is great potential there, says Schepers. “KFC is still something new for the people there.” During its expansion, KFC relies almost exclusively on bars with a car counter.

“Not at Burger King after the disco”
The company has had a mixed year. The 20 locations at airports and train stations collapsed in sales. The nearly 30 restaurants in shopping centers also performed poorly. On the other hand, the restaurants with drive-in were able to shine; “In the summer months we even posted an overall increase of two to three percent,” says the manager.

For the whole year, however, KFC is also expecting losses: After 267 million euros in 2019, according to a company forecast, German sales in 2020 will drop to a little more than 250 million euros.

One size larger than KFC is Burger King, which operates 750 restaurants in Germany and achieved annual sales of around one billion euros in 2019 – and is expecting a decline this year.

The orphaned offices in city centers, the home office boom and the restrictions on going out had hurt Burger King, says Germany boss Everke. Those who work at home don’t get coffee or breakfast on the way to work. “And the young people don’t stop at Burger King in the evenings before or after the disco.”

Nevertheless, company boss Everke is satisfied in view of the adverse Corona circumstances. Locations at motorway service stations, train stations and airports were indeed failures, but restaurants with car counters in cities were in demand. “In Corona times, people want to eat tried and tested food, but at the same time keep their distance.” This is made possible with the drive-ins and the delivery service function.

Drive-in facilities help to quickly test people for Corona without them having much contact with other people. Source: dpa
Tests to pick up
Drive-in facilities help to quickly test people for Corona without them having much contact with other people.

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